After a 20/1 winner in Stuttgart, Andy Schooler brings you his best bets for this week's Queen's Club and Halle tournaments.
It was a good start to the grasscourt season last week for followers of this column as 20/1 pick Lucas Pouille won the title in Stuttgart.
This week the ATP stars take another step towards Wimbledon with the biggest warm-up events of the pre-SW19 campaign taking place at London’s Queen’s Club and in Halle.
Andy Murray and Roger Federer are both in action but I’m happy to take both on…
Recommended bets: ATP World Tour
Aegon Championships, Queen’s Club, London, outdoor grass
The general view regarding Andy Murray right now seems to be his 2017 struggles are officially over following a markedly-improved performance at the French Open.
He’s the favourite for Wimbledon but I remain to be convinced that he’s back to the form he was in at this stage last season and I believe we’ll know much more about his chances there after we’ve seen him take to the grass at Queen’s, a venue he’s loved over the years – he’s a five-time champion in W14.
But there’s no doubt he’s been vulnerable to the upset at times too. He may have only lost three matches here in the past decade but those defeats have come at the hands of Radek Stepanek, Nicolas Mahut and Mardy Fish, players who were ranked 42nd, 65th and 90th respectively.
Given he’s 6/4 – marginally bigger than he’s been in the past couple of years – I’m happy to take on the Scot.
Sam Querrey and Gilles Muller are exactly the sort of player who, on a good day, would be capable of troubling Murray. Both are in his quarter.
I could opt to go with one of those as an outright pick and while Querrey is a former champion here I’d probably go with Muller. Regular readers will know I mentioned him in last week’s preview of Den Bosch where he ended up winning the title.
It’s a regret I wasn’t more bullish but he’s 40/1 this week and having been to the quarter-finals in each of the past two years, I believe the Luxembourger could be dangerous again here.
However, I’m actually going to side with another player who is showing some decent form with a strong course record and that’s Marin Cilic.
I picked out Cilic at a big price at the French Open and he played very well until a desperately disappointing showing against Stan Wawrinka at the quarter-final stage.
He doesn’t like that match-up though so it was probably no great surprise and a move onto the grass will suit him down to the ground.
The big Croatian won here in 2012, made the final the following year and last season was beaten in the semis. Both defeats came at the hands of Murray, although on each occasion he took the British star to a final set.
If the seedings play out, Cilic will face Murray again in the last four and while the home player would clearly be favourite, history suggests Cilic would have at the very least a puncher’s chance.
He arrives here on the back of a semi-final showing in Den Bosch where only Ivo Karlovic’s howitzers cost him a place in the final – his compatriot winning a final-set tie-break.
Still, Cilic showed in his opening grasscourt event of the campaign that he continues to be in good nick. He served 42 aces in his three matches in the Netherlands and lost his serve only once.
In terms of his draw, he has potentially tricky early rounds against John Isner and Steve Johnson but our man leads Isner 6-2 on their head-to-head (1-0 on grass) and is 2-0 up on Johnson, again having won their only previous contest on this surface – here 12 months ago.
Nick Kyrgios could follow in the quarter-finals but we never really know how he’ll perform mentally, while he’s also had physical issues of late.
In short, Cilic appeals at 16/1 (BetVictor) and will happily give him another chance to shine at a venue he certainly likes.
I also feel there’s potential in the bottom half where several of the leading seeds appear to be in something of a transitional phase.
Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic and Tomas Berdych have all made changes to their coaching team in recent days and all will be receiving new orders from new appointees.
Wawrinka has added Paul Annacone as a grasscourt consultant, while Mark Knowles is the man Raonic has turned to for the same role. Berdych has recently parted company with his main coach Goran Ivanisevic and failed to sparkle in Stuttgart last week.
Wawrinka hasn’t got a great record at Queen’s and while Raonic did make the final last year and will always be a danger with that serve, I think both can be taken on at the prices.
The man I’m turning to is the other seed in the section, Grigor Dimitrov.
The Bulgarian’s form has dipped since his impressive start to the season, one which brought him the Brisbane and Sofia titles, plus a semi-final appearance at the Australian Open.
After his dip, he’ll be glad to be back on a faster surface and although he was beaten in the second round in Stuttgart last week by Jerzy Janowicz, I can forgive him that against a player whose serve can be deadly on grass on its day.
Dimitrov won here in 2014 and was also a semi-finalist in 2012 so that box is ticked but perhaps most attractive is his draw.
He’ll open against Ryan Harrison, a player with little to write home about in terms of grasscourt results in his career.
Wild card James Ward or a qualifier will follow so those are two matches which should get him well into the tournament.
Raonic could follow but in addition to what I‘ve already said about the Canadian, it’s interesting to see that Dimitrov holds a 3-1 winning record against him, including victories in each of their last three matches.
He’s also 2-0 up on Nicolas Mahut – a dark horse in this section – who is also a potential quarter-final opponent. The Frenchman has beaten Murray, Cilic and Rafael Nadal at Queen’s in the past, while all four of his ATP singles titles have come on grass.
However, I think the bookies are well onto him given he’s only 28/1 with any firm who’ll give you the each-way option and that’s plenty short enough.
Instead Dimitrov is the bet at 16/1 (Betfred).
Gerry Weber Open, Halle, outdoor grass
Roger Federer is once again the star attraction in Halle where he will be looking to win a ninth title.
It’s no surprise to see him up as the favourite again and plenty will be tempted by the 13/8 being dangled given his superb record at the tournament.
However, he was also a hot favourite last week in Stuttgart where he lost to Tommy Haas in his opening match, a result which adds pressure to him this week – two early defeats will not have been factored into his Wimbledon preparations.
The draw also looks potentially tricky. Yen-Hsun Lu should be seen off in round one but a run of Mischa Zverev, Lucas Pouille and Ivo Karlovic could then come before the final.
Zverev made the last four in Stuttgart, a tournament Pouille won, while Karlovic finished runner-up in Den Bosch.
Perhaps Florian Mayer, a player I picked out last week, could be the one to profit.
He’s been a regular in the quarter-finals here over the years and last season went all the way to the title.
I’m tempted by the 80/1 on offer but after a round-one let-down last week and Federer likely to be more focused, I’ll swerve on this occasion.
Instead my bet in Halle comes in the opposite half, one which looks weaker than the top section.
Dominic Thiem is the man seeded to make the final but I feel his game isn’t particularly suited to grass. That may sound a bit odd given he won in Stuttgart last year (beating Federer in the process) and also made the semis here but I just can’t have him at 8/1.
I’d much prefer to support Philipp Kohlschreiber at 20/1 (BetVictor).
The German thrives on home soil – five of his seven ATP titles have come in his homeland, as have 10 of his 16 final appearances.
His record in Halle reflects that. He’s played in each of the last 10 renewals and only once has he exited before the quarter-final stage.
That came in 2015 when he lost to Federer in round one and even took that encounter to a final-set tie-break.
He won the title in 2011, made the final in 2008 and has also been to four other semi-finals. Another one looked possible last season only for injury to strike ahead of his scheduled quarter-final and he withdrew.
Kohlschreiber opened his grasscourt season with a run to the last eight in Stuttgart where he pushed eventual champion Pouille to a deciding set, so clearly he’s not in bad form.
His draw here looks fair enough too with Alex Zverev looking his biggest threat in the third quarter.
However, Kohlschreiber is 2-0 up on the head-to-head against his Davis Cup team-mate with one of those matches coming on the slick courts of the US Open.
OK, that’s not grass but Zverev, a runner-up here 12 months ago, will not relish any such clash.
I think it’s worth chancing Kohlschreiber. If he can survive the second round there’s a good chance he can make the final here once more.
Where to watch on TV: Queen’s is live on the BBC and Eurosport; Halle is live on Sky Sports
Posted at 1600 BST on 18/06/17.